Introduction Of HIV Prevention Programme Confirmed

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD have welcomed the publication of a draft report on the introduction of a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) programme aimed at preventing HIV.

The study by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) confirmed PrEP is safe and highly effective in preventing the virus in people at substantial risk, and also found that the programme would be cost-saving. HIQA will now hold a five-week public consultation before presenting its final report.

Welcoming the announcement, the Taoiseach said: "We want to reduce the number of new HIV diagnoses in Ireland. Increasing the availability of PrEP will help us to do so. This report not only confirms that PrEP can help to prevent HIV amongst those who are high risk, it also shows how a PrEP programme could save money.

"The introduction of a PrEP programme, coupled with increased testing and greater awareness will help us to reduce the number of people contracting HIV."

Minister Harris added: "The publication of this draft report is a significant step in the introduction of a PrEP programme in Ireland in 2019.

"Reducing the number of new HIV diagnoses in Ireland is a priority focus for me as Minister for Health. The introduction of a PrEP programme will make a significant contribution to that aim."

The scheme involves the pre-emptive use of antiretroviral medication to prevent HIV infection, within a holistic service which includes regular monitoring and testing, as well as advice and counselling on safer sex practices. Similar programmes have recently been introduced in a number of other countries.

Minister Harris continued: "As the report notes, many of the people who would stand to benefit from a PrEP programme are from vulnerable or stigmatised groups in our society, so it is important that we continue to work to reach out and encourage more people to get tested and avail of the treatments and supports available.

"Considerable work is already underway in the HSE to prepare for the introduction of a PrEP programme that meets appropriate standards. I encourage interested parties and members of the public to give their feedback on the draft report during the consultation process which runs to 28th of May, and I thank HIQA and the various experts and stakeholders for their work so far. I look forward to receiving HIQA's formal advice when the report is finalised after the consultation process."

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